Minister for Health, James Reilly has agreed to allow the Emergency Aeromedical Support (EAS ) air ambulance based in Custume Barracks to continue for three months while the 12 month pilot scheme is reviewed.
Supported by the Air Corps, an assessment of the service’s first 12 months is due to be completed shortly, at which time the future of the service will be decided.
Replying to a parliamentary question by Deputy Nicky McFadden, Minister Reilly said that after talks with Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter, “an extension of aeromedical support by the Air Corps to the EAS service for a period of up to three months, pending receipt and consideration of the report on the review of the pilot”, was agreed.
“The service has been hugely important to the region over the last year. I have made both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Defence aware that I am in full support of the continuation of the service. I have particularly requested that patient care and local communities will be given consideration as part of the decision making process and I will continue to highlight this over the coming weeks and months,” said Deputy McFadden.
It is believed that the air ambulance has carried out 245 missions since it was officially established in June 2012. According to Deputy Denis Naughten, “From June 2012 to May 2013 there were 245 missions completed by the Air Corps air ambulance service based out of Custume Barracks Athlone with a further 40 missions completed by the Irish Coast Guard using its fleet of search and rescue helicopters”.
These missions by the Coast Guard were carried out when the Athlone-based Air Ambulance was on another call.
“While the operation of this service out of Athlone is a positive development, it is not a replacement for other ambulance services or the downgrading of services at hospitals - in fact just the opposite. Such a service can support smaller hospital facilities by ensuring that patients who would be more appropriately treated in major regional centres can access the specialist treatment in a timely manner.
“Furthermore, a responsive ambulance service is needed, as it is the paramedic at the scene of the emergency that makes the call regarding the need to air lift a patient to hospital,” said Deputy Naughten.
The Emergency Aeromedical Support Service will continue to operate as normal while the review is being completed and a decision on the service is expected within three months.